Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bonding Ritual

"Bond...James Bond." (Dr. No, 1962)

Dr. No
Over the past 50 years, since the release of Dr. No, the James Bond formula has become more memorable than any of the nefarious plots unleashed by the secret agent's many adversaries. Whatever evil scheme Dr. No was planning (I vaguely recall something about the "global economy"...or was that Goldfinger?) is blotted out by the memory of Ursula Andress as Honey Rider emerging from the ocean, Venus-like, in the instantly famous white bikini. Still, Bond movies have remained enjoyable, even when they haven't been very good, due in part to the formula itself, which plays out like a ritual in film after film. While Bond devotees may not hurl toast or toilet paper during a screening, we nonetheless take pleasure in recognizing the following familiar elements each time.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
Opening shot of James Bond being tracked through a gun barrel accompanied by his twangy theme music. He turns, fires at the camera, and blood runs down the screen.
License to Kill (1989)
Pre-credits sequence of Bond wrapping up a mission related (or not) to the film, culminating in a spectacular stunt.
Goldeneye (1995)
Opening titles consisting of silhouetted nude women dancing suggestively — often next to or on top of guns — accompanied by the singing of a famous pop star (one in seven times it's Shirley Bassey).
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
M recalls Bond from his current mission or time off, interrupting a romantic moment.
From Russia With Love (1963)
Bond enters the MI6 offices by tossing his hat onto the hat rack...
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
...then flirts with M's secretary, Miss Moneypenny, who tells him that she wishes he'd make a serious offer.
The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)
Bond has a mission briefing with M, where he often surprises his boss with an exposition-rich recitation on the villain or valuable object in question.
Goldeneye
Q presents Bond with a host of new weaponized gadgetry, admonishing him to return it in working order.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Bond drives an expensive sports car tricked out with top-secret features.
Goldeneye
007 introduces himself as "Bond...James Bond."
Die Another Day (2002)
Bond orders a medium dry vodka martini, shaken, not stirred.
The Man With the Golden Gun
Compulsive use of clich├ęd innuendo ("rise to the occasion," "pump her for info," "cunning linguist", etc.).
Goldfinger (1964)
One or more of the women encountered by Bond have sexually suggestive names (Pussy Galore, Plenty O'Toole, Octopussy, Chew Mee, Xenia Onatopp, Holly Goodhead, etc., etc.)
Goldfinger
Bond sleeps with the bad guy's girlfriend, who is subsequently killed by the villain for her betrayal.
Dr. No
An attempt is made on Bond's life via complicated or exotic method.
License to Kill
Bond kills a henchman in an unusual and gruesome fashion.
The Spy Who Loved Me
The villain's henchman has an unusual physical appearance and/or deadly trait.
Tomorrow Never Dies
Stunt-laden chase scene involving cars, boats, skis, motorcycles, and/or helicopters.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Bond confronts the colorful villain in his elaborate lair...
Goldfinger
...is subsequently trapped there...
The Spy Who Loved Me
...then gets free, defeats the villain, rescues the "Bond girl," and escapes before the lair explodes.
Dr. No
Bond and his female companion are radioed or found by the Royal Navy as they drift aimlessly on a body of water. Bond shuts off the radio or otherwise thwarts the rescue in favor of sex.
The Spy Who Loved Me
Reprise of theme song during closing credits, followed by "The End...James Bond will return in..."

See also: Winter games, Bond-style

3 comments:

  1. Very well done. You know, formulaic and repetitive as all this stuff seems, it's still part and parcel of what we've come to expect of the Bond film experience. OK, every film may not have all the elements you listed present, but most of them are there, and so the audience recognizes what they're getting.

    I think that's a large part of why Quantum of Solace so divided fans of the series. Apart from the hideous editing during the action scenes, there was just too much of the familiar, the essence of Bond if you like, removed. For me, and many others too, the end result was a fairly generic action flick that traded on the name of Bond but didn't deliver enough of we'd come to expect. I remain optimistic though that the new film seems to be returning to at least some of the more familiar aspects.

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  2. Thanks, Colin. I agree with you 100% about the expectations. These things are tradition and give the Bond fan something to look forward to each time.

    I was hoping not to be called out on this so soon, but I have yet to watch either of Daniel Craig's Bond films. I've vowed to catch up in time for Skyfall, though at the moment I'm in the dark. Nothing against the man -- I have just not kept up in the last several years. Your comments about Quantum of Solace have made me even more curious, however, so I'll step up my efforts!

    Thanks for reading!

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    1. The Craig films have moved Bond in a different, more stripped down direction, although have gone too far, have changed things too radically for my taste in the case of Quantum of Solace.
      Casino Royale was much more successful at striking a balance in my opinion, and Skyfall (going by the trailers anyway) looks promising.

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